Who had the bright idea of eating out as a family? What would it have hurt to eat fast food, fast? Why me? Why me? Why me?
I am troubled, as you can tell. We could have gone to Taco Bell, paid less than $20 for our meal, inhaled 15 soft tacos (two with only cheese), finished in 10 minutes and evacuated before anyone could clearly identify us.
But no, I insisted that we slow down, sit at the table, have conversation and let someone else do the legwork. My idealism got the best of me. I focused solely on the upside of eating out: I don't have to plan the meal, cook the meal, clear the meal, or clean the kitchen after the meal. That's a persuasive number of hash marks on the pro side.
Instead, the conversation I anticipated consisted of attempting to talk over my daughter, who loudly sang a clap along medley of Deep and Wide, The Wheels on the Bus, and a mispronounced "Cheeses" Loves Me that sounded something like an out-of-tune Shirley Temple performing "The wheels on the bus are deep and wide, for the Bible tells me so."
Two of the boys scooched back and forth on the booth bench in efforts to encroach on the territory of the other and stake a squatters claim. This continued until one of the two gave the other a shoulder punch and retreated under the table. He very shortly reemerged exasperated about feet touching him.
The fourth and final child entertained himself by making a barely audible, high pitched noise, just loud enough to make me want to rake my fingernails down the "Specials" board in order to drown out his unassuming form of torture.
Then my sit-down, relaxing, no hassle meal, which at this point I hadn't received, converted to an adventure in the restroom with the three-year-old. Her goal of the hour (and let me emphasize hour): to see how long I would stand outside the bathroom door so she could have "privacy" to touch everything, look under each stall, and sit on the toilet so long that it embossed a red ring on her hiney that still hasn't disappeared.
Back at the table, our food arrived. My daughter didn't care. She never planned to eat hers anyway. Amazingly, the same youngsters, who exuberantly claimed to hover at the brink of starvation mere minutes before, indifferently glanced at their baskets of chicken fingers.
Between stints of moving cups from the edge of the table, asking the waitress to bring forks to replace the original ones now on the floor, and confiscating straws and the wadded up paper that children hadn't yet crammed into them, I nibbled at my food. It could have passed for evidence of the coming of a new ice age.
And at last, after valiant exertion, the three-year-old managed to spill her milk. A chain reaction ensued. I assure you that whoever said "don't cry over spilt milk," never had it run under her plate and trickle into her lap.
The important detail I've left out of his story is that fate tried to compassionately intervene. About 60 seconds after we placed our order, the hostess came to our table and inquired if we had received our check. Is there a bigger hint than this?
I wish we had paid it then and left. The children would have consumed the same amount of food; and I could have gone home and burned dinner on the range.